Channel Influencer should be a visionary

Channel Post MEA speaks with Seemant Prakash, Head of Sales and Marketing, Middle East and Africa, AVITA Technologies International about his journey over the years in the IT channel and how he has grown to be a influencer in the channel community in the Middle East

What are your career history to date and key career achievements?
My journey spanning 13 years in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) has been very interesting and at the same time fulfilling. I honed my business management and leadership skills, analytical skillset, consumer electronics domain expertise, and most importantly the relationships that I cherish forever.

Started my career as a product manager with Jumbo Electronics IT distribution where I sowed the seeds of a new and profitable business vertical. After that, I  joined Sharaf DG omni-channel retail as a category manager to gain insight into consumer behavior. Here, I was instrumental in signing the historic agreement with Euronics by delivering the qualifying criteria.

In my current role, I am working on go-to-market and channel development strategies, as I am penetrating MEA markets for our VAIO and AVITA brands.

What are your roles and responsibilities in the company as a channel influencer?
My role is to develop and execute brand, channel, and go-to-market strategies to ensure the success of partners and the smooth functioning of our consumer channel ecosystem for AVITA and VAIO brand of laptops.

As a brand representative, I am responsible to understand market trends, position our products, build brand equity and generate demand, while creating immense value for end customers. Acting as a key enabler and motivator for IT channel partners for the MEA region, setting goals, reviewing performance, and implementing ideas for constant improvement are part of my work.

What qualities should a channel influencer possess to lead the channel?
A channel influencer should be a visionary and lead by setting an example. He or she should possess the ability to build relationships based on trust, and performance and take complete ownership of channel success.

Another quality is the ability to look at the big picture and yet needs to be hands-on with all the nitty gritty of the business. A channel influencer should be flexible in approach, a proactive problem solver, versatile and swift in the execution of plans.

What is your advice on finding success in the channel?
A new entrant should look at long-term planning with a timeframe of at least 1 to 3 years, to achieve considerable success in the MEA market.

They should constantly invest in building the ecosystem and collaborate with the right partners who align with the brand vision. I would rather give more weightage to partners’ appetite for growth and mutual synergy rather than their current channel strength.

More importantly, they should treat partners as an extended arms and collaboratively agree on their roles, responsibilities, and expectations. That is why it is so important you do your homework upfront, to set your deliverables accurately, and make sure this is going to be a clear win-win for all parties so that each party is willing to invest in its success.

How would you assess the current state of channel?
The current Middle East consumer channel is quite mature, where market players have positioned themselves well, based on product lines, brands, customers, and geographies. The distribution channel is quite consolidated where a few established players are enjoying a good market share, however, there are still a few challengers.

Both e-commerce and omnichannel are contributing to transforming the retail business. Hence, e-commerce, which is witnessing double digits growth and a volume of more than USD 100 billion in MEA as per various statistics, is one of our prime focus channels for growth.

As various retail players have further developed their operational capabilities, they prefer a direct business with high-volume brands.

What is the biggest challenge facing the IT channel in the region?
Unlike other consumer electronics categories, PC lineup gets refreshed very fast, and any excess inventory faces the risk of obsolescence. One of the major challenges that IT channels face, is developing accurate forecast models. Due to long production and fulfillment times, forecasts have to be made at least six months in advance. However, due to various international and local unforeseen events and complex uncertainties, the market demand gets impacted considerably.

One example is the effect of COVID-19. Worldwide PC shipments grew by 15% in 2021. It declined by 16% in 2022, but were still 7% higher than pre-COVID levels of 2019.(as per Canalys data). Another difficulty is the lack of real-time market data integration and market insights which can lead to the bullwhip effect.

To mitigate these problems, partners should integrate the sharing of information transparently within the complete supply chain. For that, more robust and agile systems have to be set in place. Information sharing has been cited as one of the effective means to enhance supply chain performance. It allows companies to better coordinate their activities with their supply chain partners, which leads to reduced costs, risks, and increased performance.

If you could improve one thing about the channel business what would it be?
I strongly believe that the market should act responsibly within its defined scope of operations. There should be cooperation not to disturb the ecosystem and prevent the entry of grey products, as there are obvious risks associated with grey stocks. Some of the risks associated with grey stocks for the end consumer include quality and service issues. Also, they might not get a local regulatory authorities-compliant product.

For businesses, this would mean reduced customer trust, dissatisfied partners, and loss of reputation.
One effective solution is to link channel rebates to local product activation.

How can partners eco-system work effectively to generate growth in the channel?
The partners need to think of how to make the downstream channels successful, common focus should be serving the end consumers well. The ripple effect will generate growth for everyone.

Use of technology to collect and share real-time info and market data transparently so that the channel can act in advance. Instead of everyone competing for the same pie, understanding bifurcations based on product and brand positioning as per customer profile.

Channel programs and quarterly business reviews with partners to make sure everyone has clear goals to shoot for and can report their recent progress.

What are your interests outside of work?
I love to spend time staying abreast of the latest developments in technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Metaverse, Web 3.0, Blockchain, and Data Science. To gain an in-depth understanding, I meet industry experts, read articles, listen to podcasts and attend webinars.